BRADENTON -- Bradenton Christian School dedicated its football field at the homecoming celebration Friday night to a former principal and superintendent who has been diagnosed with brain cancer.
Dan van der Kooy, 62, was principal and superintendent of Bradenton Christian for 23 years before he left in the spring of 2013.
"It's too much to say. It's such an honor that they're recognizing him," said his wife, Judi van der Kooy. "He'd keep going if he could; I think there's no way he would've ever quit unless he got sick."
Dan van der Kooy was diagnosed with glioblastoma in June 2013 and has been through radiation and chemo-therapy treatments since then.
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"He was doing quite well -- he had the tough times, but in the summer he really started pulling through, then
all of a sudden it dropped," Judi said. "So the tumors are back and they're growing, but we never give up hope. When your hope is in the Lord, you never give up hope."
He came to the field with his wife and family to see the dedication before the Panthers played Southwest Florida Christian at 7:30 p.m.
Judi, who teaches elementary-school Spanish at Bradenton Christian, said the school was always a special place to them. They moved to the area when Dan started the job and all of their children attended over the years.
The football program was recently started, and the soccer field that existed for 30 years was just turned into a combination soccer and football field eight years ago.
Judi said Dan would always go to the football games ever since the program started.
"We live right over there, so even now on Friday nights, he'll stand over there for as long as he can stand, just to keep watching," Judi said, pointing to the side of the football field opposite the school.
Football Coach Allan Gerber said Dan was the father of the football program and he'd left a solid legacy with the school.
"He's the poster for Christian education in this area, and he's produced the next generation, maybe even two, of Christian leaders," Gerber said.
Judi said Dan would never want that legacy to be about him, but about faith in God.
"He wants every child to grow in the love and grace of our lord and savior Jesus Christ," Judi said. "When children leave this school they continue to grow in His love and share that love with other people."
Judi said despite their troubles, they're still thankful to God for everything they have.
"We're happy for every day," Judi said.